WBEZ | Rahm Emanuel http://www.wbez.org/tags/rahm-emanuel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Lucas chooses Chicago for his art, memorabilia museum http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lucas-chooses-chicago-his-art-memorabilia-museum-110405 <p><p>Get your lightsabers ready: The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is coming to Chicago.</p><p>George Lucas and the museum board announced Tuesday they had chosen Chicago as the home for the museum, beating out San Francisco and Los Angeles.</p><p>It all started more than four years ago, in a galaxy far, far away -- also known as George Lucas&rsquo; home of San Francisco. Lucas&rsquo; originally wanted to build his museum for art and movie memorabilia at Crissy Field, land owned by the Presidio Trust. But when his plans were rejected earlier this year, he began looking into other options.</p><p>In a statement, the Lucas Museum board says Chicago&rsquo;s proposed site by Soldier Field was &ldquo;significantly larger&rdquo; and closer to public transportation than the sites San Francisco was offering. The board also lauded Chicago&rsquo;s museum campus - the proposed site for the museum - as &ldquo;vibrant,&rdquo; and &ldquo;centrally located in a city renowned for its love of art and architecture.&rdquo;</p><p>Though he&rsquo;s from California, Lucas has his own personal connections to Chicago. Lucas&rsquo; wife, Mellody Hobson, is a prominent businesswoman from Chicago. The couple celebrated their wedding at Promontory Point along the Lake Michigan shore. The city closed down the entire park for the event.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been lobbying for major cultural institutions to move to or take root in Chicago. A mayoral-appointed task force last month recommended the Lucas museum be built along the lakefront, in the now-parking lots between Soldier Field and McCormick Place</p><p>Emanuel called landing the Lucas Museum a &ldquo;tremendous opportunity&rdquo; for the city. He&rsquo;s said in the past taxpayers wouldn&rsquo;t be footing the bill for the billion-dollar investment.</p><p>The mayor has also attempted to assure Bears fans that the Lucas museum won&rsquo;t keep them from tailgating before home games. Last month, he told reporters at an unrelated event that &ldquo;there&rsquo;s going to be tailgating. Full stop.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t thank George and Mellody enough,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;No other major American city has these type of cultural education institutions, with a great Northerly Island creating a vibrant, green museum campus - unparalleled in the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>In a statement, George Lucas says Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but the Bay area will always be his home.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian"><em>@laurenchooljian</em></a></p></p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lucas-chooses-chicago-his-art-memorabilia-museum-110405 Watch Chicago's 2nd Ward fly north over the years http://www.wbez.org/news/watch-chicagos-2nd-ward-fly-north-over-years-110293 <p><div class="image-insert-image ">Last week <a href="http://wbezdata.tumblr.com/post/86343915004/mapping-rahm-emanuels-2011-victory-and-how-that-may" target="_blank">we looked at</a> where Rahm Emanuel had support in his 2011 election and how that might shift, but one of the major pieces of geography that will change in 2015 are the boundaries themselves.</div><p>In 2012 aldermen approved a new ward map, as they do every 10 years with the decennial census. And as is also a Chicago tradition, there were calls of gerrymandering, civil rights abuses and the eventual lawsuit.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s redistricting efforts have been challenged in three of the past four attempts going back to 1980. That&rsquo;s why you&rsquo;ll find two different maps in use in the 1980s and 1990s, and very possibly later this decade as well (A lawsuit from the League of Women Voters is <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140228/downtown/city-ward-map-lawsuit-headed-back-court" target="_blank">working its way through the courts)</a>.</p><p>Inspired by a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/" target="_blank">series of articles from the <em>Washington Post</em>&rsquo;s Christopher Ingraham</a>, we decided to see just how gerrymandered Chicago&rsquo;s wards have become. Ingraham created a 0-100 scale to measure the level of gerrymandering in congressional districts and we reproduced that to see how Chicago&rsquo;s wards stacked up to Congress.</p><p>We used maps from three sources: The <a href="http://hue.uadata.org">Historical Urban Ecological data set</a>, the <a href="http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/collections/maps/chigis.html">University of Chicago</a>, and the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/doit/dataset/boundaries_-_wards.html">city</a> of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/no-sidebar/approved-ward-map-95662">Chicago</a>.</p><p>We loaded those maps in a PostGIS database and followed Ingraham&rsquo;s methodology, specifically applying the <a href="http://www.redistrictingthenation.com/whatis-compactness.aspx">Polsby-Popper method</a> to determine a gerrymandering score (on a 0-1 scale), then converting it to a 0-100 scale.</p><blockquote><p><em>If you&rsquo;re playing along at home, the formula we used was 100*(1-(((4*3.14)*Area)/Perimeter^2))</em></p></blockquote><p>A few caveats before we continue:</p><p>-Polsby-Popper isn&rsquo;t the only way to measure gerrymandering and may not capture aspects some would associate with gerrymandering. We followed along with Ingraham&rsquo;s method to make comparisons.</p><p>-A perfect compactness score of 0 would be a circle, but no area can be split into a bunch of circles. A series of perfect squares would score 21.5.</p><p>-Compactness of a ward doesn&rsquo;t take into account population, demographics or keeping communities together, something required by the Voting Rights Act. That means sometimes a less-compact district can better serve a community.</p><p>-Chicago is a weird looking city (geographically speaking). With Lake Michigan, the O&rsquo;Hare annexation and its extreme North-South orientation, there are a lot of irregular boundaries. The city itself scores 88.8 on our gerrymandering scale (which may say something about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">how the city came together</a>, but that&rsquo;s what we&rsquo;re working with).</p><p>With that said, this is a good starting point to look at how Chicago&rsquo;s wards have changed over the years, and how it compares to other civic divisions.</p><p><strong>1927</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1927_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 1927 (Source: Historical Urban Ecological data set)" /></div><p>Chicago first split into 50 wards in the 1920s. Before then there were 35 wards with two aldermen each. Reformers hoped that having one alderman per ward (and 50 instead of 70) <a href="http://www.lib.niu.edu/1979/ii790211.html" target="_blank">would help reduce corruption</a>. The fact that this story exists implies that it did not.</p><p>That first attempt at 50 wards (with annexation thrown in in 1927) is pretty compact, and contains mostly shapes your toddler could name. You can see in the map above that most ward lines are fairly straight, with the Chicago River the main natural divider creating some squiggles.</p><p>At this point the 2nd Ward is a fairly regular shape, more or less a six-sided polygon.</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 43.37. Chicago score: 48.74.</strong></p><p><strong>1986</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1986_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 1986 (Source: University of Chicago)" /></p><p>Fast forward to 1986 (the next year we could find electronic ward maps). These boundaries were drawn after the election of Harold Washington as mayor and a <a href="http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2730&amp;context=cklawreview">4-year-long court battle</a>, so would only be in effect until 1992.</p><p>While the map as a whole has undergone some major changes, the 2nd Ward is relatively close to its original shape. The boundaries to the north, west and east are in basically the same spot, but it has grown to the south. Also, notice how the southern boundary is more irregular.</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 45.06. Chicago score: 61.58.</strong></p><p><strong>1992/1998</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1998_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 1998 (Source: University of Chicago)" /></p><p>Following the 1990 census the Chicago City Council couldn&rsquo;t decide on a new ward map so they sent two proposals to voters in a referendum. Again, the choice was challenged and went to the courts, and a new ward map came in 1998. The process <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-11-09/opinion/ct-edit-wards-1109-jm-20111109_1_new-chicago-ward-map-incumbent-aldermen-census" target="_blank">cost the city $18.7 million</a>.</p><p>This is the first major change for the 2nd Ward. Other than its eastern edge on Lake Michigan, the whole thing is blown up and now resembles something like a transposed &lsquo;L.&rsquo; Not only does most of it move north, but its long, skinny shape extends west halfway across the city.</p><p>In this one change, the 2nd Ward goes from one of Chicago&rsquo;s more regular wards to one of the more gerrymandered.</p><p>While the new 1998 map had some big changes for certain districts, there was little change as far as the gerrymandering score for the city or Ward 2.</p><p><strong>1992: 2nd Ward score: 84.89. Chicago score: 69.91.</strong></p><p><strong>1998: 2nd Ward score: 85.10. Chicago score: 69.71.</strong></p><p><strong>2002</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2002_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 2002 (Source: City of Chicago)" /></p><p>After the 2000 census an amazing thing happened: Chicago passed a ward map that didn&rsquo;t get thrown out by the courts. In true Chicago style, though, this came because of more gerrymandering, not less.</p><p>Mayor Richard M. Daley <a href="http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=164131">worked with black and Latino councilors to craft wards that were acceptable to them</a>, creating safer constituencies at the expense of compactness.</p><p>The 2nd Ward is barely touching its original area, a plume of smoke rising from the ashes of its foundation. Its continued its northern path and now swallows up Burnham Harbor, Soldier Field and and the Field Museum.</p><p>This is the first time the 2nd Ward is Chicago&rsquo;s most gerrymandered, narrowly passing the 41st (91.28).</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 91.33. Chicago score: 69.71.</strong></p><p><strong>2015</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2015_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 2015 (Source: City of Chicago)" /></div><p>These are the wards that will elect our next round of aldermen in February, unless of course they don&rsquo;t.</p><p>The 2nd Ward was moved not only entirely north of where it was in 1927, but north of where it was in 2002. This got a lot of attention after the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-01-20/news/ct-met-city-council-new-ward-map-20120120_1_new-ward-map-aldermen-vote-whitney-woodward">map was approved in 2012</a>, because it moved current 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti into the 28th Ward, seemingly a punishment for not sticking with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>WBEZ produced <a href="http://www.wbez.org/no-sidebar/approved-ward-map-95662">an interactive map of the new wards</a> along with demographic profiles of each ward back in 2012. Check out that link for more information on the process as well.</p><p>The end result is that the 2nd Ward is now solidly Chicago&rsquo;s most gerrymandered, with the 1st Ward ranking second at 91.48.</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 94.16. Chicago score: 74.18.</strong></p><p><strong>How Does Chicago Compare?</strong></p><p>Going back in Ingraham&rsquo;s work with states and congressional districts, Chicago and the 2nd Ward fit in pretty well. Chicago matches up well with states like Missouri as in the upper half, but not near the most gerrymandered. The 2nd Ward, though, would be just outside the top-10 for most-gerrymandered district (Illinois 4th is No. 8).</p><p>Again, these scores may be indicators of gerrymandering but is by no means the final word. That will come later from the legal system.</p></p> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 14:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/watch-chicagos-2nd-ward-fly-north-over-years-110293 Mexico City startups eye Chicago as U.S. tech hub http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-city-startups-eye-chicago-us-tech-hub-110229 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/288732880_a35cf41b31_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago could be further expanding its tech reach with help from Latin America.</p><p>Last fall, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera signed an economic partnership that includes joint trade initiatives and strengthening overall global competitiveness. As part of that agreement, a delegation from Mexico City this week got a first-hand look at Chicago&rsquo;s economic strategy.</p><p>It&rsquo;s part of an experimental exchange initiated by the Brookings Institution.</p><p>The group learned about Chicago&rsquo;s restaurant business, its tourism efforts and tech scene.</p><p>Felipe Lara was part of the delegation. He was particularly interested in learning more about Chicago&rsquo;s startup environment. He founded a company called <a href="http://www.cono-c.com/" target="_blank">Conoce</a> in Mexico City. It uses camera and algorithm technologies to track shopper behavior. He&rsquo;s hoping to find partners in Chicago to help sell his product in the U.S.</p><p>WBEZ&#39;s Susie An spoke with Lara and Greg Stevens from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Lara explained why international startups might choose Chicago over Silicon Valley.</p><p><em>Susie An is a business reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon" target="_blank">@soosieon.</a></em></p></p> Fri, 23 May 2014 14:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-city-startups-eye-chicago-us-tech-hub-110229 Chicago seeks end to federal hiring oversight http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-seeks-end-federal-hiring-oversight-110188 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Shakman_Mik_03_jpg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A crusading lawyer who fought for decades against Chicago&rsquo;s entrenched political patronage system is finally calling for an end to federal oversight of City Hall&rsquo;s hiring practices.</p><p>Attorney Michael Shakman told a federal judge on Thursday that the city has come into &ldquo;substantial compliance&rdquo; with the so-called Shakman decrees, which are a series of court orders that have sought to end the sort of politically-motivated hiring and firing practices that have been an inextricable part Chicago politics for decades.</p><p>Chicago has been under the watchful eye of a federal hiring monitor since 2005, following high-profile political hiring scandals involving top aides to former Mayor Richard M. Daley.</p><p>&ldquo;Over the past several years, the City has developed and implemented policies and procedures to help ensure that unlawful political reasons and factors are not and will not be considered in the City&rsquo;s employment actions,&rdquo; reads Thursday&rsquo;s joint court filing, which was also signed by Corporation Counsel Steve Patton, the city&rsquo;s top lawyer.</p><p>Speaking by phone on Thursday, Shakman said Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has helped bring an end to the federal oversight by disciplining Daley-era workers who violated political hiring rules. He also praised Emanuel for implementing new hiring plans, and appointing aides and an inspector general who watchdog political hiring.</p><p>But Shakman added Chicago still has work to do to shed its reputation as a town where political supporters have often been rewarded with government jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not naive,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t think that politics is gonna disappear overnight from the minds of lots of people. But all we can really do in the real world is set up procedures that should prevent it.&rdquo;</p><p>If a federal judge approves the joint request at a hearing on June 16, the city&rsquo;s inspector general would take over hiring duties from the court-appointed monitor.</p><p>That would mark the end of a legal battle that has plagued City Hall for nearly 45 years. The fight began in 1969, when Shakman was an independent candidate running against the mighty Cook County Democratic Party for a seat at Illinois&rsquo; 1970 Constitutional Convention. Since then, several court orders - collectively known as the &ldquo;Shakman decrees&rdquo; - have sought to strip political considerations from most hiring decisions at City Hall.</p><p>The federal monitor was <a href="http://www.shakmanmonitor.com/court_orders/Court%20Order%20Appointing%20Shakman%20Monitor.pdf" target="_blank">appointed</a> in 2005, following the federal indictment of Daley&rsquo;s former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, for steering city jobs toward politically-connected applicants, in violation of the Shakman decrees. Also that summer, another top Daley aide, Donald Tomczak, pleaded guilty to similar criminal charges. Sorich was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/guilty-verdicts-sorich-trial" target="_blank">found guilty</a> in 2006.</p><p>In addition to tempering Chicago&rsquo;s reputation for political cronyism, the hiring scandals have also cost City Hall big money. The city has had to foot the bill for the federal monitor, which has cost the city $6.6 million, according to Emanuel&rsquo;s administration. Another $4.3 million has gone to consultant and legal fees, and the city has paid out nearly $12 million to settle hiring-related legal cases since 2008, according to the an Emanuel aide.</p><p>&ldquo;Since the first day of my administration, we have made it a priority to take politics out of the hiring process, professionalize city government, and end the decades of practices that were a stain on our City,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement. &ldquo;We are turning a page on the past to a future where the public knows that the City has a transparent and accountable system in place to ensure that city jobs will go to the candidate who is most qualified, not the most connected.&rdquo;</p><p>The end of federal hiring monitoring for the city may also mean the end of Joe Ferguson&rsquo;s tenure as Chicago Inspector General. Despite several <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705" target="_blank">public clashes</a> with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the past, the mayor <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590" target="_blank">reappointed</a> Ferguson to another four-year term last year.</p><p>But Ferguson told WBEZ then that he might &ldquo;move onto other things&rdquo; once the city was out from under the Shakman monitor, which he hoped to achieve by the end of this summer. On Thursday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the inspector general declined to comment on his future.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Alex Keefe</a>&nbsp;is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 15 May 2014 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-seeks-end-federal-hiring-oversight-110188 Chicago's e-cigarette crackdown is officially underway http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-e-cigarette-crackdown-officially-underway-110101 <p><p>The city of Chicago&rsquo;s crackdown on electronic cigarettes officially begins Tuesday.&nbsp;</p><p>E-cigarettes, or vape pens, allow users to puff on nicotine vapor rather than real tobacco smoke. The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance in January that regulates the pens just like any other tobacco product. From now on, smokers won&rsquo;t be allowed to use any of these devices in the workplace or any enclosed public places like bars, restaurants, stores or sports venues.</p><p>The city policy also bans the distribution or sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and requires that stores keep them behind the counter, rather than out on the sale floor.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed the measure, and has been pushing restrictions on all forms of cigarette smoking - including boosting the cigarette tax and putting a prohibition on selling flavored tobacco products within a 500 feet of a school.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been a long line of activities to protect our kids from both tobacco products, and more importantly, from the tobacco companies seeing [kids] as part of their bottom line. And they&rsquo;re not,&rdquo; Emanuel told WBEZ.&nbsp;</p><p>Opponents - including some aldermen - say e-cigarettes are safer than regular tobacco-burning cigarettes, and can actually help people quit.</p><p>The Food and Drug Administration issued a proposal last week that would extend the agency&rsquo;s tobacco authority to cover e-cigarette products, which would restrict companies from giving out free samples. It would also impose minimum-age and identification restrictions on e-cigarettes and keep them out of vending machines (unless they&rsquo;re in a facility that never admits kids) but it stopped short of regulating advertising.The proposed rule is now under a public comment period.</p><p>Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Public Health, said the proposal is a good first step--and a step in the right direction--but the city&rsquo;s ordinance goes even farther.</p><p>Choucair said if anyone sees people smoking e-cigarettes in Chicago where they&rsquo;re not supposed to, they can call 311 to file a complaint.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Flaurenchooljian&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHdY9Bg1Uv8cPtNPU3NCg2qmAExsQ">@laurenchooljian</a>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-e-cigarette-crackdown-officially-underway-110101 Madigan drops property tax mandate in pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is removing a controversial provision from a Chicago pension bill that would have required the City Council to raise property taxes in order ease the city&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion pension crisis.</p><p>The move to strip the property-tax language in the bill came late Monday, just a few hours after Gov. Pat Quinn signalled he would not back a proposed property tax hike that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing in order to bolster the ailing pension funds for Chicago laborers and municipal workers.</p><p>&ldquo;Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the Governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement late Monday afternoon.</p><p>But the removal of the property tax language doesn&rsquo;t mean Emanuel&rsquo;s tax hike proposal is going away. That plan, which would bring the city $750 million in revenue over the next five years, still seems to be central to the mayor&rsquo;s plan to pump more money into the city&rsquo;s pensions.</p><p>The difference is that state legislators, who must approve changes to Illinois pension law, don&rsquo;t have to worry about being blamed for raising Chicago property taxes during an election year. The bill&rsquo;s original language mandated that the City Council raise property taxes to pay for pensions. The latest version allows the city to use &ldquo;any available funds&rdquo; to make its annual payments.</p><p>Speaking at an event Monday morning, Emanuel said he is not trying to hang a potential property tax hike around legislators&rsquo; necks.</p><p>&ldquo;It was never anybody&rsquo;s intention to have Springfield deal with that,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s our responsibility. But I do believe to actually give the 61,000 retirees and workers the certainty they deserve, you need reform and revenue. And we&rsquo;ll deal with our responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel said he will continue to &ldquo;address people&rsquo;s concerns&rdquo; about the pension plan, though he would not speak directly to its fate in the City Council, which would also need to approve any property tax hike.</p><p>To placate public worker unions who had wanted a dedicated revenue stream, Madigan&rsquo;s changes also beef up the penalties if City Hall wriggles out of paying its pension contributions. The bill directs Illinois&rsquo; Comptroller to cut off state funding to the city indefinitely if it doesn&rsquo;t pay its pension tab, and it gives pension funds the right to sue City Hall in order to get their money.</p><p>The new bill would also guarantee that retirees who make $22,000 or less in annual benefits would get a cost-of-living increase of at least 1 percent each year. Prior proposals set the annual increases at the lesser of 3 percent or half the rate of inflation. Right now, city laborers and municipal workers get a guaranteed annual benefit increase of 3 percent, which builds on the previous years&rsquo; increases.</p><p>The changes to the mayor&rsquo;s proposed pension fix came just hours after Gov. Pat Quinn slammed Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve gotta come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue,&rdquo; Quinn said at an unrelated press conference. &ldquo;But if they think they&rsquo;re just gonna gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We&rsquo;re not gonna go that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn, a populist Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, has made property tax relief central to his 2015 state budget proposal. And while he shot down Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, the governor did not offer an alternative source of revenue for Chicago pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they need to be a whole lot more creative than I&rsquo;ve seen so far,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>State legislators could consider the new amendment as soon as Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 Quinn quiet on mayor’s pension plan, questions property tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is raising questions about whether he would support a plan to bolster Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded public pensions by raising property taxes, telling reporters today that property taxes are already &ldquo;overburdening&rdquo; state residents.</p><p>State lawmakers are now debating <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Femanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHVMds9AwIwUN5U23ljh0rlrgfAPg">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan</a> to prop up city&rsquo;s pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. Central to that is a proposal to raise property taxes by $50 million each year for five years, which would ultimately net the city $750 million. The mayor also is calling for city workers to chip in more money toward their retirement benefits, and he wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s blueprint, which he said would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion public pension crisis, first needs approval from the state legislature and the governor, because all Illinois pensions are governed by state law.</p><p>Quinn on Thursday would not say whether he would sign the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fbillstatus.asp%3FDocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26GA%3D98%26DocTypeID%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26SessionID%3D85&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCEIli0kRUcM8Np1l1LxGkpZmWDg">Chicago pension bill</a> if it landed on his desk.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that bill is, frankly,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters in Chicago. &ldquo;I think it has all kinds of different descriptions. They&rsquo;re, I guess, looking at it in Springfield. When they have something put together we&rsquo;ll look at it. But I wanna make it clear: I believe in reducing the burden of property taxes in our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn would not detail any specific concerns he had with Emanuel&rsquo;s pension plan. But he returned repeatedly to the talking points he has been using to push his own 2015 state budget proposal. &ldquo;The bottom line in our state is we have to reduce our reliance on property taxes and we have to invest in education,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>The governor&rsquo;s 2015 budget would make permanent a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fincome-tax%2Ftemporary-tax-hikes-dont-always-stay-way&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHDXygwYKimhgniQZB0Efijo86f_Q">income tax hike</a> enacted in 2011, while guaranteeing all Illinois homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The governor is hoping that will allow municipalities around the state, boosted by trickle-down state income tax revenue, to lower local property taxes, which Quinn thinks disproportionately favor wealthy areas.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s Springfield allies put his plan into legislative form on Tuesday, shortly after he outlined it for reporters. The bill passed a key House pension committee on Wednesday, but is still awaiting a debate before the full House.</p><p>The State Senate, meanwhile, adjourned for the week on Thursday without taking up the plan.</p><p>The blueprint Emanuel outlined earlier this week aims to pump more money into the two pension funds for more than 56,000 city workers -- one for city laborers and the other for municipal workers, including administrators and skilled tradesmen.</p><p>By 2020, Emanuel&rsquo;s plan would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fexperts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzLcw0b8YPzM-h-NQSYombAlYX5g">archaic math</a> the city has been using for decades to calculate how much money to chip into its workers&rsquo; retirements. Experts say that is a primary reason the pension funds have been shorted for decades, leading to their current dire shape. Instead, the proposal in Springfield would slowly ramp up contributions from the city, before switching over to a self-adjusting funding formula.</p><p>If the city tries to skimp on payments -- or skip them altogether -- <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800SB1922ham004%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26DocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL9MZWqOZTKPul1CQW64R2_sAHpA">the current proposal</a> allows the pension funds to take Chicago to court, or even garnish City Hall&rsquo;s share of state grant money.</p><p>But the stabilization of the pension funds would also come at a cost for taxpayers and city workers.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, which would still need approval from the City Council, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $58 more in property taxes each year for the next five years, according to the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Current and retired city workers would also kick more into their pension funds, but get less out of them. Employee contributions would jump from the current 8.5 percent of each paycheck to 11 percent by 2019.</p><p>But the mayor also wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year. Retirees in the municipal and laborers pension funds currently see their retirement benefits grow at a 3 percent compounded annual rate. The mayor wants to cut that down to a flat 3 percent, or half the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. And retirees would see no benefit increase in 2017, 2019 or 2025.</p><p>Several of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful city workers&rsquo; unions quickly came out against the mayor&rsquo;s plan, arguing it violates a part of the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Fcommission%2Flrb%2Fcon13.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHYjOR9TNeMJMsYGbhWyAumt2lbbA">Illinois Constitution</a> that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes the unions for police, firefighters and teachers, whose members all have their own woefully underfunded pensions systems that would not be affected by Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. What&rsquo;s more, the mayor&rsquo;s plan does nothing to stave off a state-mandated spike in the city&rsquo;s contributions to its police and fire pensions next year, which will cost nearly $600 million.</p><p>The jump in required payments was designed to finally bring the city&rsquo;s police and fire pensions into the black, after decades of City Hall shorting the funds. But Emanuel has threatened that such a huge, one-time increase would force drastic budget cuts or steep property tax hikes.</p><p>A spokesman for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November election, said in a statement that Rauner disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bruce has always maintained that true pension reform requires moving towards a defined contribution style system and believes that should also be part of the solution for Chicago,&rdquo; said campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 Emanuel wants answers on BP oil spill http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Whiting-spill.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Although BP&rsquo;s Whiting refinery is a short distance from the city of Chicago, it is firmly in the state of Indiana and answers to that state and its agencies. But that&rsquo;s not stopping Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from asking for a full report on this week&rsquo;s oil spill to be given to the city and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll expect a full accounting to the public and the city of Chicago of the damage that was done, how much, what the clean up efforts were, how comprehensive they have been and what actions the company will take to ensure this doesn&rsquo;t happen again,&rdquo; Emanuel said Wednesday while announcing a plan to invest $671 million to upgrade the city&rsquo;s water infrastructure.</p><p>A BP spokesman said this week it appears crude oil somehow seeped into the refinery&#39;s water filtration plant that&rsquo;s adjacent to the lake. Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Dan Goldblatt told WBEZ Wednesday that unconfirmed reports put the amount of spillage at about a dozen barrels of crude oil.</p><p>BP has raised its estimate of how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan. The company said Thursday a preliminary estimate shows between 15 and 39 barrels of oil have been recovered from the lake at its Whiting refinery.</p><p>A barrel of oil can produce about 42 gallons of gasoline, so potentially 1,638 gallons of oil spilled into Lake Michigan. Earlier estimates had pegged the amount at 10 to 12 barrels of oil.</p><p>The spill was detected around 4:30 p.m. Monday. By 9 p.m. a representative with the U.S. EPA said it appeared the leak had been stopped. Cleanup continued Wednesday along the shore of a small private beach between the refinery and its neighbor ArcelorMittal Steel Company.</p><p>&ldquo;BP continues to make progress in responding to an incident Monday at the Whiting Refinery. Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill,&rdquo; BP announced Wednesday from its US Press Office based in Houston. &ldquo;They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.&rdquo;</p><p>BP said monitoring continues with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.</p><p>&ldquo;BP and federal agencies are assessing the shoreline to determine what, if any, next steps are required in the response,&rdquo; a company statement said. &ldquo;BP continues to work to calculate the amount of oil discharged into the lake. This work involves estimating how much oil was released into the refinery&rsquo;s cooling water system, water treatment plant and ultimately into the lake.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the U.S. EPA, its Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team inspected the shoreline today for three hours to assess the presence of oil and to recommend cleanup techniques as required.</p><p>&ldquo;The team saw minimal oiling of the shoreline and recommended a small manual removal crew conduct maintenance along the shoreline,&rdquo; the U.S. EPA said in a news release. &ldquo;Weather and wind conditions improved overnight allowing teams to once again secure boom.&rdquo;</p><p>Sources involved in the cleanup say the crude oil that spilled into the lake was a combination of so-called sweet crude (from domestic sources) and crude from Canada&rsquo;s Tar Sands region, which is considered heavier and dirtier. The tar sands oil is a source of contention among environmentalists.</p><p>&ldquo;A spill like this one, whether big or small, will continue to garner national headlines. And that is the sort of behavior that will keep BP Whiting the refinery Chicagoans love to hate,&rdquo; Henry Henderson, Midwest program director of the Chicago office for the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in a blog post.</p><p>So far, no Indiana or Northwest Indiana public official have made statements regarding the spill. BP represents a major source of jobs and property taxes for Northwest Indiana, and the company just recently completed a $4 billion modernization of the more than 100 year old Whiting refinery.<br /><br />But BP often has been on the receiving end of scathing comments by Illinois officials.</p><p>Lately, Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin have taken the company to task for transporting thousands of tons of pet coke, short for petroleum coke, to a site on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast side. Residents there have complained about the dust-like substance making them sick when it becomes airborne.<br /><br />Some city officials want the substance completely banned though so far Emanuel is only pushing an ordinance that would severely restrict the use and storage of pet coke. But with the new oil spill BP is under the microscope again.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to make sure that BP is a good corporate citizen next door in Indiana,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>And, at least for now, BP is responding.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been engaged with the mayor&rsquo;s office since the onset of this incident and are providing his office with regular updates, &ldquo; BP spokesman Scott Dean told WBEZ Wednesday night. &ldquo;We will also continue to keep the public and relevant authorities informed as we investigate this matter.&rdquo;</p><p><em>This post was updated on March 28, 2014.</em></p></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 08:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 Pet coke only the latest pollution threat on the Southeast side http://www.wbez.org/news/pet-coke-only-latest-pollution-threat-southeast-side-109811 <p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to introduce an ordinance Wednesday calling for stricter controls over petroleum coke, aka pet coke. It comes a day after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a new lawsuit against KCBX, a company that stores pet coke on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast Side.</p><p>Many residents there believe the giant piles of pet coke along the Calumet River have had an adverse effect on their health. But some officials say pet coke is only the tip of the ash heap when it comes to industrial pollution in the area and the respiratory problems it may cause.</p><p>Problems such as asthma, which can be a nagging health issue for some, but is a life-threatening condition for Liz Martin.</p><p>&ldquo;I take medication every day to help control it but when it gets really bad then there&rsquo;s different medications and machines that I have to take for like immediate care but there&rsquo;s like controller medications that I have to take everyday for who knows how long,&rdquo; says the 21-year-old Martin, who&rsquo;s studying computer science at Saint Xavier University Chicago.</p><p>And while most Chicagoans can&rsquo;t wait for winter to be over, Liz knows warmer temps could make things worse.<br /><br />&ldquo;When the weather starts getting better and the winds start picking up, I get flu, colds, pneumonia, everything. My allergies just go crazy and I don&rsquo;t know how to handle it. It&rsquo;s not something that medication can really handle,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Beyond the weather, there&rsquo;s another problem. Liz and her mother Lilly live just a few blocks from KCBX&rsquo;s pet coke storage site along the Calumet River.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beyond%20Pet%20coke%203.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; width: 233px; height: 310px;" title="Liz and Lilly Martin at their Southeast Chicago home. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />That&rsquo;s where this whole controversy started last August when high winds caused the pet coke to blow all over the neighborhood. Caught on video, the black dust-like substance looked like a swarm of locusts.</p><p>Pet coke isn&rsquo;t new to this area. It&rsquo;s been used for decades by local steel mills. In fact, Lilly Martin remembers gathering it in buckets for her parents who used it as dirt.</p><p>&ldquo;At that time, we used to walk by the bridge and we would get it but we never knew that pet coke was bad, and we would get it,&rdquo; Lilly Martin said. &ldquo;Maybe that&rsquo;s why my mom and dad, they were young, they died 65, 60.&rdquo;</p><p>Martin is one of several Southeast Side residents suing KCBX for creating a health hazard and diminishing property values. Meanwhile, politicians are tripping over themselves to show support for the residents of this often neglected corner of the city.</p><p>Those who have paid a visit in recent weeks include Illinois U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan.</p><p>Mayor Emanuel also visited in January.</p><p>Today, he&rsquo;s expected to formally introduce an ordinance to prevent any new or expanded pet coke operations in the city.&nbsp;</p><p>That could directly affect KCBX, which has been in the city for 20 years although it only acquired its facility near the 106th Street Bridge in December 2012. The company has a contract with oil giant BP&rsquo;s nearby Whiting, Indiana refinery to store the pet coke before it is transported overseas.</p><p>Facing litigation and pressure, KCBX says it has increased its dust control systems. It points to a new multi-million dollar sprinkler system that prevents pet coke from blowing away.</p><p>KCBX spokesman Jake Reint says the company may go even further.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re willing to even cover the facility. The bottom line is we respect and understand the community&rsquo;s concerns,&rdquo; Reint said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to make every effort to address those concerns.&rdquo;</p><p>But even if the mayor&rsquo;s pet coke ordinance is adopted, some say this area will still be plagued by pollution.</p><p>&ldquo;Eliminating one thing, isn&rsquo;t going to solve the problem. It&rsquo;s not going to go away,&rdquo; says Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs with the Respiratory Health Association of Chicago. &ldquo;Getting rid of the pet coke piles would obviously benefit the area, but there&rsquo;s a lot more work to do other than just trying to clean up the KCBX situation.&rdquo;</p><p>The RHA tracks pollution sources in the city and its effects on people&rsquo;s health.</p><p>Urbaszewski says its worth remembering that the South East Side has been the city&rsquo;s industrial corridor for more than a century. And its probably no coincidence that it has some of the highest asthma rates in Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s just a lot of train traffic, there&rsquo;s a lot of truck traffic that goes through here and it&rsquo;s one of the few places in Chicago that actually gets ship traffic,&rdquo; Urbaszeweski said. &ldquo;And then you have a huge powerhouse of industrial emissions coming from just over the border in Indiana. All that contributes to what you see here on the Southeast side.&rdquo;</p><p>While pollution is a prime suspect for the area&rsquo;s high asthma and cancer rates, no one knows for sure.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Triggers can be the weather, the environment, certainly genetics plays a role, environmental issues, allergens, toxins, the common cold,&rdquo; Dr. Max Gilles, head of the emergency department at nearby Advocate Trinity Hospital.</p><p>Advocate&rsquo;s Emergency Department. sees about 40,000 patients a year &mdash; nearly 1 in 10 come in due to asthma.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not all.</p><p>&ldquo;We see a 17 percent higher rate of heart disease than in the Chicago rate area itself; greater than 50 percent higher cancer rate, which can include breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate than the Chicago rate. And, greater 53 percent high stroke rate,&rdquo; Gilles says. &ldquo;So we see a lot of sick patients.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beyond%20Pet%20coke%202.jpg" style="margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" title="Dr. Max Gilles of Advocate Trinity Hospital handling an asthma breathing device with respiratory therapist Belinda Brown. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" /></div><p>Dr. Gilles is quick to point out that it&rsquo;s hard to prove a direct correlation between industry and illness, but he says it wouldn&rsquo;t hurt to eliminate some possible contributors.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Certainly when I do drive in - whether it&rsquo;s to work or other places - you do see smoke stacks, exhausts fumes from cars and it&rsquo;s certainly a concern,&rdquo; Gilles says. &ldquo;If you eliminate that source, I don&rsquo;t think it would eliminate all asthma or chronic disease related to that possibility but it would certainly point it in the right direction.&rdquo;</p><p>Back at the Martins&rsquo; home, Lilly shows me some breathing contraptions that Liz uses for her asthma.</p><p>Even if there&rsquo;s no direct link, she&rsquo;s convinced eliminating the nearby pet coke would help. As proof, she points to the expensive air filters that keeps the inside air clean for her daughter.</p><p>&ldquo;You shouldn&rsquo;t have to change these filters in less than six months, and we were changing it every two to three weeks. That&rsquo;s how black those filters are,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Meanwhile Liz Martin doesn&rsquo;t go outside much. She often sits at her front window watching the world go by, and waiting for things to change.</p><p>When asked if it makes her feel better knowing the city is trying to do something, Liz says, &ldquo;Yea it does cause I mean it&rsquo;s better for everyone. The little kids that have to grow up here. Everyday I look outside, there&rsquo;s like 4 or 5 year olds hanging out. They don&rsquo;t have an immune system to work up to it. It just makes me feel better that they might get some help.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 07:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/pet-coke-only-latest-pollution-threat-southeast-side-109811 Emanuel: Pet coke handlers 'not wanted' in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pet-coke-handlers-not-wanted-chicago-109694 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rahm Petcoke 1.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that he will propose an ordinance concerning pet coke at next month&rsquo;s City Council meeting. The goal is to make it difficult for the handlers of the petroleum by-product to operate within the city.</p><p>By doing so, Emanuel is taking direct aim at KCBX Terminals Inc., located along the Calumet River on the Southeast side, a longtime industrial area surrounded by mostly low income minority residents.<br /><br />The firm has been under heavy scrutiny from residents and politicians since last summer when high winds caused the dust-like petroleum coke to blow into nearby homes.</p><p>&ldquo;Through the regulations we&rsquo;re going to put in, it&rsquo;s going to be very expensive to operate here and therefore they are going to choose to leave,&rdquo; Emanuel told WBEZ on Wednesday. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to make sure the ordinance puts up a &lsquo;not wanted&rsquo; sign in the City of Chicago as it relates to pet coke.&rdquo;<br /><br />The proposed ordinance would prohibit new pet coke, coke, and coal facilities from opening in the City of Chicago and ban expansions of existing facilities. If approved, it would prevent any new or expanded pet coke operations, including processing, transporting, storing or handling of the material.<br /><br />This would have a direct impact on KCBX which has a contract to handle thousands of tons of pet coke trucked in daily from BP&rsquo;s Refinery in Whiting, Indiana.<br /><br />The amount KCBX receives from BP could increase threefold since a modernization project at the Whiting plant recently installed a new coker that will ramp up production from 2,000 tons of pet coke daily to 6,000 tons a day.<br /><br />Emanuel says he&rsquo;s pushing for the ordinance because the dust-like pet coke prevents residents on Chicago&rsquo;s far southeast side from enjoying life outdoors. That was the concern late last August when high winds caused much of the ash-like pet coke to blow into people&rsquo;s yards.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re sitting in the backyard having a picnic, you get up and come back and your plate is black. And it&rsquo;s a sense that people could not live in their own neighborhood without inhaling this product or it being all over their clothes or all over their food. And that&rsquo;s just not how people are supposed to live in the City of Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel said.<br /><br />Even with the ordinance, Emanuel says the city is still industry friendly.</p><p>&ldquo;You can manufacture, you can build, you can do all the things you want to do here in the City of Chicago. And, we have companies that are thriving, just like the Ford plant, not too far from there, but they are good corporate citizens,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;m looking for, somebody who wants to create jobs and be a part of the community in all aspects. Dumping an environmental product that damages our health is not something that we want to welcome.&rdquo;<br /><br />KCBX Terminals says it has invested millions in upgrades to its facility along the Calumet River that will eliminate pet coke from becoming airborne. The system was not in place during the incident last August.<br /><br />Company spokesman Jake Rient says KCBX is reviewing the ordinance and trying to determine the implications on its operations, which employs about 40 people.<br /><br />&ldquo;As a company, we are always concerned when we hear mayors say they don&rsquo;t want to see business invest in their city. We don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s the right message,&rdquo; Rient said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re really committed to to doing the right thing and we&rsquo;ve been open to working with the city and address our neighbors&rsquo; concerns.&rdquo;<br /><br />Meanwhile, the Illinois Manufacturers Association says Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal is unnecessary and will cost jobs.<br /><br />&quot;This ordinance is a solution in search of a problem. Unfortunately, the approach outlined today will cost Chicago jobs and revenue at a time when they are struggling economically.&nbsp; The Illinois Manufacturers&#39; Association does not believe that there is any justification for banning or arbitrarily limiting the processing, storage, transport or handling of petcoke in Chicago.&nbsp; According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, petcoke is not hazardous &ndash; in fact, it is a valued commodity that has broad application in the manufacturing sector,&rdquo; said Mark Denzler, vice president and COO of the IMA.<br /><br />The issue of pet coke has lead to a lawsuit filed by residents living near the plant and others filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.<br /><br />A lawsuit brought by Madigan forced Hammond, Indiana-based Beemsterboer Slag Company, which has operations on the Southeast side, to agree to stop taking in any more pet coke from KCBX Terminals. KCBX Terminals is owned by the wealthy conservative Koch Brothers.<br /><br />Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, has a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been trying to sqeeze KCBX out, kick them out and legislate them out or whatever it would take. We would be very happy if that were the result,&rdquo; Shepherd said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re unsure if this ordinance will be open to challenge. We would have liked to see an ordinance to banish pet coke from the city. We&rsquo;re still hoping to see the pet coke gone.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite it being six months since the first major episode of flying pet coke, Shepherd said the substance is still turning up in and around the neighborhood.<br /><br />Last month, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn tried and failed to implement a statewide emergency order to severely restrict the handling and storage of pet coke at facilities around the state.<br /><br />The Illinois Pollution Control Board rejected his emergency plea. Board members say the Governor&rsquo;s new guidelines will go through the regular channels of consideration.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pet-coke-handlers-not-wanted-chicago-109694